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SAR QSAR Environ Res. 1995;4(1):39-50.

Classification of contaminants by mode of action based on in vitro assays.

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Analytisches Laboratorium für Umweltuntersuchungen und Auftragsforschung, Luhnstedt (Germany).


A concept for toxicity assessments based on in vitro assays of variant levels (i.e., from whole cells to isolated enzymes) is presented. Due to the complexity of organisms of different species, it is evident that no single in vitro test can represent the entire spectrum of toxic potency of chemicals, rather a carefully designed battery of tests has to be employed to account for the various targets attacked in organisms yielding the different modes of action. Cytotoxicity tests like the Neutral-Red Assay predominantly reflect non-specific toxicity, which can be modelled according to a log Pow dependent baseline QSAR. Specific toxicants (e.g., decouplers, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or photosystem II inhibitors) may be identified based on according in vitro tests and eventually modelled by the respective mode of action related QSARs employing also, e.g., steric or polarizability descriptors to account for specific interactions. The complementation and partial replacement of in vivo (eco)toxicological testing by in vitro assays depends on two criteria: (a) the sensitivity of the tests to reliably detect environmentally relevant concentrations of toxicants and (b) the specificity of the assays to provide an unambiguous classification of toxicants by modes of action: the pattern of interaction with the various targets allows to recognize those compounds of specific effects that frequently occur as outliers in QSAR analyses.

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